I love TED talks. Early in the semester, I tweeted, “That’s it. I’m watching a TED talk a day.” Well, I couldn’t keep that up, but I still try to watch as many as possible. New Year’s is right around the corner so I suppose I can “resolve” to try again…

This semester, after the 1st test (!), I decided to give my intro bio students (mostly freshmen) an extra credit assignment. Throughout the semester, they had to watch 6 TED talks and write a paragraph description of each.  I gave them a couple of initial suggestions to get the ball rolling. However, they were free to choose any talk they wanted. The talks didn’t have to be about biology, they didn’t even have to be about science. Anything was open to them.

More students that not chose to do the assignment and it turns out they all chose science talks. And as near as I can tell, they all loved the assignment too. As a biology professor who is interested in educational methods and who also is well aware of the issues in student retention for science majors, this was telling. But that’s a subject for another post.

As I read their descriptions of the talks, I made a note of each of the speakers that sounded interesting and that I hadn’t seen before. Before I knew it, the list had grown to this:

  1. Julian Treasure
  2. Dan Ariely
  3. Adam Ostrow
  4. Robin Ince
  5. Daniel Wolpert
  6. Jessica Gamble
  7. Michael Merzenich
  8. Britta Riley
  9. Nathalie Miebach
  10. Nalini Nadkarni
  11. Nina Tandon
  12. Edith Widder
  13. Graham Hill
  14. Bill Davenhall
  15. David Blaine
  16. Eric Mead
  17. Richard Resnick
  18. Luca Turin
  19. Marco Tempest
  20. Daniel Tammet
  21. Sam Harris
  22. Phil Plait
  23. Ron Gutman
  24. Dan Gilbert
  25. Craig Venter
  26. Martin Hanczyc
  27. Kamal Meattle
  28. Dave Gallo
  29. VS Ramachandran
  30. Rebecca Saxe
  31. Elliot Krane
  32. Jonathan Drori
  33. Alan Jones
  34. Pamela Meyer
  35. Dan Buettner
  36. Janine Benyus
  37. Joe Sabia
  38. Todd Kuiken
  39. Annie Murphy Paul
  40. Mitchell Joachim
  41. Christopher deCharms

Little did they know, they weren’t just doing the assignment for themselves, they were also doing it for me. How much is this professor going to learn from their recommendations? And they thought I was teaching them.

Because of the feedback I got from the students and how much I enjoy the talks, I figured you all would enjoy them too. Therefore, each week I’m going to post a link to and short description of a different TED talk.

We’ll start with the one that got me hooked. David Bolinsky finds beauty and truth in animating a cell. And so do we. 

UPDATE: A friend on Facebook (John Mulholland) recommended another link for Bolinsky’s work. Here it is. Enjoy!